Linux Format Newsletter -- #58, February 2010

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #58, February 2010

Postby M-Saunders » Thu Mar 04, 2010 4:16 pm





1. Welcome

2. LXF 129 on sale

3. Special subscription offer

4. In the news...

5. This month on the forum

6. Special Newsletter feature

7. Coming up next issue

8. Receiving this Newsletter

9. Contact details

1. Welcome

Welcome to the February newsletter. The big talk in the tech world
over the last few weeks has, of course, been about the iPad. Some
love it, some hate it, but there's no doubt that Apple's device has
sent tremors through the industry. Personally, I think this is a
great time for the free software community to make a big push:
Apple's device is shiny and polished, but it's locked-down to the
hilt. For many users that's fine, but for those who want an open
tablet which gives total control to the user, Linux is the perfect
platform. We just need the right kind of hardware now - Freescale's
prototypes appear to be the ideal match, so fingers crossed!

Read on for a look at the brand new issue of Linux Format, roundups
of the big news stories and forum posts, and a special feature on
finding documentation galore at the command line. Enjoy!

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. LXF 129 on sale

With 2010 set to be the best year ever for Linux, in our main
feature this month we're looking at the hot new technology that'll
be heading to a distro near you soon. But because it's open source,
you don't just have to look at pretty pictures: you can install and
try these awesome programs too. KRunner, Docky, Gnome Do, KDE 4.4
and Gnome Shell - there's so much fantastic software to come, so our
feature will keep you one step ahead.

Ever fancied adding "Kernel hacker" to your .signature file? You
don't need to know the ins-and-outs of the process scheduler or
memory manager to do so: indeed, there are many jobs that need doing
in the kernel source code relating to code tidiness and style. Greg
Kroah-Hartman explains how to go from scratch with the kernel source
code to getting your patch submitted and your name in lights.

Then there's our roundup of Twitter clients, a look at DisplayLink,
heaps of tutorials for newbies and programmers alike, plus a 4GB DVD
with Linux Mint 8, FreeBSD 8 and a barrel-load of free software,
documentation and podcasts. Here's something to whet your appetite
from our HotPicks section:

# Terraform 0.9.5 --

To every thing, there is a season, and a time to every purpose
under heaven. There's a time to plant, a time to reap. A time to
laugh and a time to weep. A time to appear in HotPicks and then
disappear into the ether for seven years and a time to make an
end-of-decade comeback. It's to the latter part of these wise
words we look to when we consider that Terraform looms again on
the radar.

If you can't guess it from the name, Terraform is a landscape
generator and manipulator. Using random seeds, it'll generate a
square block of terrain to your specifications. Once it has (very
quickly) rendered a height map, you can do all sorts of clever
things with it, such as add rivers, smooth or erode the landscape
and add random objects such as vegetation or stones.

Of course, there isn't much point to all this if you can't export
the final result, so Terraform gives you the option to save in a
number of different formats, or render directly to the venerable
(but still not open source) POV Ray. Perhaps it doesn't quite meet
2010 rendering standards, but that's largely because nobody has
really added any code to it for eight years other than to make it
behave in a more socially acceptable way by 2010 rendering

Head over to the LXF website and click on the issue cover picture
for more information on Linux Format 129.

3. Special subscription offer

By subscribing to Linux Format magazine, not only do you save heaps
of money compared to buying it at the newsstand, but you also get
access to over 50 back issues (in PDF format) online: that's over a
thousand articles! See:

If you're in the USA, go to and
enter code 'e004' to save 45% and pay just $30.62 every 3 months or
$122.47 for the year.

For those in the UK, EU and rest of the world, visit:

UK readers save 35% off the newsstand price (based on 13 issues),
paying 13.75 UKP quarterly by direct debit. In the EU, you get 13
issues for 93.70 UKP (that's a whopping saving of 50%), while in the
rest of the world you can save 10% - it's 97.50 UKP.

So, save time and money, and get access to a huge wealth of previous
Linux Format content - subscribe today!

4. In the news

The biggest developments from around the net...

# 75% of Linux kernel code written by paid developers

Linux has come a long way since the hobbyist hacker days of yore:
the latest figures show that three quarters of the kernel source
code comes from companies such as Red Hat, IBM, Intel and Novell.
Interestingly, no single company dominates: the biggest, Red Hat,
has just 12% of the contributions.

# Firefox 3.6 released

It was a bit delayed, but now we have a new version of Firefox to
enjoy. Changes in this release include a new theme system
(Personas), protection from out-of-date plugins, and better
JavaScript performance.

# Linus Torvalds in "100 Most Influential Inventors" list

Britannica has released a new book looking at the most influential
thing-creators in history, ranging back from Imhotep through to
Google's Sergey Brin. Excellently, Linux kernel creator Linus
Torvalds has made it into the list - but where's Richard Stallman?

5. This month on the forum

In the market for a new netbook? Shaddack asked the forum for
purchasing advice, looking for a machine with decent performance
that can (of course) run Linux. Gn2 pointed to the Acer Aspire One
D250 for just under 200 quid - a pretty good bargain - and other
Acer models also got some praise. Samsung and ASUS made appearances
too. If you have any recommendations, please let us all know. [1]

Surprise, surprise: 1slipperyfish started an interesting thread! At
least it was in the Off Topic forum. The question: if you could do
any job, what would it be? Credit for imaginative answers goes to
Heiowge ("Test a new bed every night to see how well you sleep") and
Rhakios ("Research scientist in genetics"). If you want to describe
your dream job, or just bait 1slipperyfish (the usual reason people
post in these threads), join in! [2]



6. Special Newsletter feature


Many command line tools appear to be austere and difficult to use,
but most of them are supplied with documentation. How do you get
this help, though? Well, here's our list of things to check when you
find yourself stumped at the shell prompt...

1) The '--help' switch

Almost every command should print some sort of feedback using this
argument. 'ls --help' for instance will print a quick guide to the
main options of the 'ls' command. If the output is too long to view
on the screen, use 'ls --help | less' to filter the output through a
text viewer (use the cursor keys to scroll and Q to quit).

2) The 'man' page

You're probably familiar with this already: 'man' brings up the
manual page for a command (eg 'man df'). Man pages aren't designed
to be beginner-friendly guides to using a tool, but references for
the features it includes. Still, many commands include an 'examples'
section at the end which can be tremendously useful. Tip: hit '/'
(forward slash) then type in a word to search for it.

3) The 'info' pages

You tend to find 'info' pages with utilities written by the GNU
project. For instance, 'info ls' brings up different documentation
to the man page, with separate subsections that you can access via
the cursor and enter keys. The GNU folks tried to push 'info' as the
standard documentation format for a while, even letting the man page
for the GCC compiler stagnate, but 'man' seems to be the most
popular of the two.

4) The reference card

If you use a command regularly but often forget certain arguments
(of they're just silly like 'cpio') then you can make a handy
reference card with the 'card' command. Enter 'card -o du'
to generate a Postscript file for the 'du' command. (If you don't
use '-o filename' it'll go straight to the printer.) View the
Postscript file and, if you like it, print it out and keep it on
your wall or amongst your notes.

5) Finding other commands

Say you have a command, but it doesn't do quite what you want and
you're looking for something similar. Welcome to the magic of
'apropos'. This handy tool searches for commands based on a keyword;
the word doesn't have to be in the command itself, but it can be in
the description and other accompanying documentation. For instance,
entering 'apropos list' will show you which commands involve
generating lists (eg files, users, USB devices etc).

7. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 130, on sale Thursday 4 March...

# Get Linux in your office -- Whether in your spare room
or a multi-national megacorp, Linux can save you money

# Audio explained -- Perplexed by PulseAudio? You're not
alone, so we detail how the whole sound stack works

# LXF turns 10 -- Looks like we made it! We chart the
rise and rise of Linux and LXF over the last decade

Contents are subject to change, and may settle in transit.

8. Receiving this Newsletter

If you've been forwarded this Newsletter from someone else, and want
to sign up for future issues, just follow the steps below. Each
month you'll receive a sparkling new LXF Newsletter straight in your
Inbox, and the 30-second sign-up process is even easier than writing
Hello World in BASIC:

1. Go to the website forums and log in (or sign up first):
2. At the top of the main forum page, click on 'Usergroups'
3. Join the 'Newsletter' group, and you're done!

If for some reason you no longer wish to receive this newsletter
(which'll make the internet cry) you can opt-out like this:

1. Log into the LXF site and go to the forums
2. Click Usergroups at the top of the page
3. Select Newsletter and then View information
4. Click Unsubscribe next to 'You are a member...'

9. Contact details

If you have any questions or suggestions, please send them to the
Newsletter Editor at the address below:

Newsletter Editor: Mike Saunders --

Letters for the magazine:

LXF website:

Subscriptions: 0870 837 4722 (overseas +44 1858 438794)
Website subscription page:

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